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tv   Debate Night in America  CNN  October 16, 2012 4:00pm-6:00pm PDT

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inspired by a popular guy in the marketplace whose nickname is obama. ♪ who is that handsome fellow >> reporter: and she heal does have a pet monkey. as for president obama. >> i know he's a cool person and i don't expect him to get offended but if easy offended, i do apologize. it's not about him. >> reporter: so all you critics, surrender, just say uncle. ♪ >> reporter: jeanne moos, cnn. ♪ uncle obama >> reporter: new york.
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we're standing by for the presidential candidates and their second debate of the fall season. >> this race could take another turn tonight. just three weeks before america's choice. the pressure is on for a president who suffered a stinging debate loss. >> my opponent is doing a tap-dance at the debate the other night, trying to wigglel out of stuff he has been saying for a year. >> the expectations are high for a challenger who gained momentum from his debate win. >> i got the chance to ask the president some questions people across the country have wanted to ask the president. >> in this razor-close presidential debate, every word, every gesture, every moment
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counts. >> i had five seconds before he interrupted me. >> tonight, barack obama and mitt romney return to the debate stage. this time, undecided voters will ask questions, along with cnn's candy crowley. >> the purpose of the debate is to get beyond what people already heard. >> reporter: look for candidates to come out swinging. >> governor romney plans to let wall street run wild again but bringing the hammer down on sesame street. >> the president spends the last week talking about saving big bird. >> now, cnn's coverage of barack obama and mitt romney, debating challenges abroad -- >> and we'll remind the world why the united states of america is the greatest nation on earth. >> and challenges at home. >> i will keep america strong and our homes and our economy. >> the election is closer. the race is tighter. and america's future is up for debate.
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this is hofstra university in hempstead, new york, the site of tonight's debate. the second go-round between president barack obama and former governor mitt romney could be more lively and more informative than the first. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world to "debate night in america." i'm wolf blitzer. the big question right now, will the president be more aggressive in taking on his opponent after what he calls a bad night on the debate stage two weeks ago? cnn's chief political correspondent candy crowley is the moderator tonight. it's a town hall-style debate, and uncommitted voters are in the audit members. some of them will get to ask the candidates questions about foreign and domestic policy. the candidates' wives will be in the audience, as well. we have exclusive interviews
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with both michelle obama and ann romney. the first lady talks about her daughters and how they influence the campaign's message. >> this election couldn't be more important for women on so many different issues. it's not just about me, but i'm thinking about malia and sasha. i'm thinking about our girls and our daughters and our grand daughters. >> ann romney opens up about the worst part of campaigning. >> it's difficult to be separated from my husband a lot. it's difficult for me not to be there for my grandchildren's birthda birthdays, but it's all worth it. >> stand by for our interviews with michelle obama and ann romney. but right now we're mobilizing the full resources of cnn for debate coverage. let's bring in anderson cooper. >> during the debate, we'll in real-time take a look at the candidates to see how long they get to talk overall and about each specific issue. they'll also get immediate reaction to what they're saying from a focus group of undecided
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voters. their responses will look like that on the bottom of your screen while the candidates are talking the lines, going up and down. let's go to the debate hall and check in with soledad o'brien. >> anderson, thank you. we're at the david mac sports complex, a massive complex, seats roughly 5,000 people but tonight 1,000 people in this hall. a couple different audiences i want to walk you through. behind me, those 82 uncommitted voters. they've actually been sequestered, held in back, we didn't have a chance to talk to them before the debate begins. there is a wall around them. that's what's going to happen, the focus of tonight. but on the other side of our cameras, that direction, we have roughly 900 people who will have a chance to watch that town hall happening right in front of them. and, of course, you also have the television audience, the audience up there, 300 who haho students who entered a lottery, feel very lucky they're here tonight. anderson? >> we'll check in shortly. the presidential race tightened after the first debate.
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our john king looks at the state of the race right now tonight. john? >> no question. debate number one was a race-changer. governor romney has momentum in nevada, colorado, in the swing states of ohio and iowa. he has momentum in virginia and north carolina. he has momentum in florida, as well. why does the romney campaign think that is so important? not only in the toss-up states in this campaign, but if you go back, 2008 was a democratic year. president obama won them all then. in tougher years, these states have republican -- that's all of them in 2004. all but iowa voted republican in the year 2000. the romney campaign believes if he can keep the momentum through debate number two, he enters the final three weeks with the advantage in a race where president obama has long held the poll position. wolf? >> john, thank you. let's go behind the scenes of the president's debate preparations and the strategy for avoiding the mistakes he made last time. our white house correspondent p brianna keilar is in the spin room.
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>> reporter: president obama did some last-minute debate prep and then downtime here on long island with friends and having a steak and potato dinner with the first lady. that's wouhat the campaign tell us. he is aware, he needs to make some significant changes tonight, compared to his performance in denver 13 days ago. the way he and his aides see it, we're told, wolf, it's really more about style changes than it is substance changes. aides tell us he's ready to up his game tonight in this pivotal moment in this campaign. campaign sources tell cnn, president obama has dedicated more time practicing his debate delivery. after reviewing tape of his first debate multiple times, he is focused on being assertive, yet optimistic. >> he also knew as he's watched the tape of that debate, he's got to be more energetic. >> reporter: at debate camp in williamsbu williamsburg, virginia, the presidents' days were long and structured. a morning workout and then breakfast. debate prep around 10:00 in the main building of the kings mill
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resort, where president obama spent hours with advisers practicing possible questions the town hall audience or moderator may ask tonight. he broke for a quick lunch, then more prep. after an early dinner, he returned for a 90-minute mock debate. the president worked until 10:00 or 10:30 each night. his team longer, before starting again the next day. the goal, to avoid this. >> look, i've been in business for 25 years. i have no idea what you're talking about. i maybe need to get a new accountant. but the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case. >> reporter: obama missed multiple opportunities to challenge mitt romney. but tonight campaign sources say look for him to address governor romney's prime weaknesses. his 47% comments, his business tenure at bain capital, and his lack of specifics on his tax plan. >> that didn't happen -- more people signed up. >> reporter: as joe biden debated last week, president obama watched cnn from a
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conference room aboard air force one, along with six aides. a source in the room tells cnn, this exchange got a reaction. >> i love my friend here! i'm not allowed to show letters, but go on our website. he sent me two letters saying, by the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies here in the state of wisconsin? >> reporter: that was pretty good, obama said, according to the source. don't expect obama to emulate biden in-your-face style, aides say, but he's got a team making sure he presents a different face. david axelrod and david plouffe. bob barnett, who sparred with bill clinton in his debate preps, playing the role of cnn debate moderator is candy crowley, former white house communications director. and still in the role of mitt romney, senator john kerry. kerry saw firsthand how a president up for re-election can come back. in 2004, he bested president george w. bush in their first tangel. bush looked annoyed and dismissive.
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when they met at their town hall style debate, bush poked fun at himself. >> that answer almost made me want to scowl. >> reporter: and eventually won re-election. in 1984, even the great communicator, ronald reagan, bombed his first debate against walter mondale. he seemed confused. observers wondered if he was too old. round two, reagan dominated with this memorable line. >> i am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. [ laughter ] >> reporter: so how is president obama prepared to be more assertive? i asked an aide if perhaps john kerry hadn't been a little more aggressive, gotten in the president's face during debate prep. i was told yes, he did, but he had also done that in debate prep ahead of the denver debate. the difference, an aide told me, president obama is much more aware this time of how he is perceived by viewers who are watching on television. anderson? >> brianna, thanks very much. we'll check in with you.
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let's talk to our chief political analyst, gloria borger, david gergen and john king. you showed us before, who was really -- who changed their mind from the last presidential debate? i mean, why have we seen this huge shift? >> several pieces. one is, and the democrats try to write this off, republicans who became dispirited after their convention, democratic convention drifted away. lean republicans describe their independents, they came home. and the republicans now have that and there is no indication they're going anywhere. governor romney has his full base back. but governor romney made gains among suburbanites, including women. he's made it tighter. and people who identify themselves as independents, and that is the challenge. and why, if you look at smart democrats who have done focus group and polling, they think a lot of people saw no fight in the president. and if you won't fight mitt romney, how will you fight for me? >> so who then is president obama trying to win back tonight
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or really send a message to tonight? we heard michelle obama, the interview on cnn, talking about how important this race is for women, and she thinks about her girls in this. >> i think they are trying to bring back sort of the fripgs of people who have not decided whether their women minorities -- they've got to get some white voters back. they want 40% of the white vote, 80% of the minority vote. the big surprise to me was how much bleeding obama did after the first debate. we've seen president's lose that first debate before, but i don't think any of us anticipated just how much it would hurt him. >> this support was soft. and i think this is where -- with women, in particular. >> yeah, there's a big swing back and forth. >> and i think that the romney people are going to make a play tonight to keep those women, particularly suburban women, married women, and let them know that their candidate is not as extreme as the president would portray him as, except that the president is going to say, okay,
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he has no core. and he has no set of beliefs. and you can't trust what he says -- >> well, but if the numbers were soft for president obama -- because before the narrative of the first debate was how far in the lead president obama was. if that support was soft, is the support that's now attributeded to romney, is that soft too? >> yes. people have agreed to give him a second look. they haven't locked in yet. this is where the president's challenge is want to. but there is a fundamental change in the dynamic of the race because the president had the baton. he made the race about governor romney. he spent millions of dollars demonizing governor romney. an incumbent who pulled off the magic act making the race about his challenger, not about him and his four-year record. that's gone now. he's the president of the united states -- these are from smart democrats, not republicans who say he didn't tell anybody anything he was going to do in a second term. he didn't say here's what i did wrong in the first term, he just defended the last four years. if he keeps looking in the rear-view mirror, he'll be a former president. >> a romney debate coach is
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revealing what republicans need to do differently this time and our candy crowley on her debate and her turn as moderatorment we'll be right back. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] at&t. the nation's largest 4g network. now covering 3000 more 4g cities and towns than verizon. at&t. rethink possible.
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heading into tonight's presidential debate, mitt romney knew he couldn't stick with the same strategy he had two weeks ago. he was considered the winner of his first faceoff with president obama but the challenge tonight is different and the format different. dana bash is in the debate hall. dana, what have you learned tonight about romney's preparations this time? >> reporter: anderson, we're told they have practiced to such a level of detail, he even was preparing how he sits. and there is a good reason for that. he is going to be sitting on a bar stool and mitt romney is a mormon.
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so he doesn't spend a lot of time on bar stools, according to his aides, because he doesn't drink. it is that kind of focus on the style and in addition to the substance, that has made this preparation different from the last time. at campaign rallies, mitt romney has got new mojo. >> our campaign is about bigger and bigger crowds fighting for a bright future. >> reporter: behind the scenes, he's been working hard to keep his momentum going. since the first presidential debate, romney spent 5 out of 13 days, nearly half, prepping for his second encounter with the president tonight. his core group of about half a dozen aides traveling with him everywhere, florida to ohio to boston. practicing with mock debates, honing romney's performance in style and substance. gop sources tell cnn that senator rob portman, who plays the role of president obama in mock debates, has barely left romney's side. >> mitt romney made us proud last week and he's going to do it again next week! >> reporter: getting him ready
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for what romney aides expect will be a very aggressive president, trying to make up for his much-criticized performance last week. in an exclusive interview with cnn, portman explained how he tries to thicken the republican candidate's skin. >> your job, in preparing someone, of course, is to be so tough when they get up there in the debate, they feel about halfway through, gosh, this isn't so bad. >> yeah, it's not new. >> yeah, i'm glad it's not portman. >> reporter: sources say romney's prep for tonight's debate, a town hall, is different. >> mr. president, you're entitled as a president to own your own airplane and house but not facts. >> reporter: instead of coaching hem to focus intently on the president like last time, this time aides want him to turn his attention to the audience member asking the question. make a connection. >> the big thing is remember the audience. >> reporter: o'donnell prepped romney for debates earlier this year during the gop primaries. he also helped john mccain get ready for his town hall against obama four years ago. why is the audience so key? what does that get governor
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romney? >> because when people see that, then they know he cares. they know it's not just about policy, it's not just about position, it is about the people. >> reporter: gop sources say that is especially important for romney, working hard to shed an out of touch image. they want romney to avoid awkward missteps, like this, when george hw bush could not answer how the recession affected him. >> on a personal basis, how has it affected you? >> has it affected you personally? >> i'm sure it has, i love my grandchildren -- >> how? >> help me with the question and i'll try to answer. >> reporter: romney's old debate coach reviewed with us the first face-off with obama, his best and worst moments. best, his closing statement. >> what kind of america do you want to have for yourself and for your children? >> that's very effective. he stole the president's vocabulary. they had been using the language of the two paths. >> reporter: worst? this fumble.
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>> neither the president nor i are proposing any changes for any current retirees or near-retirees, either to social security or medicare. i just thought about one. and that is, in fact, he was wrong when i said the president isn't proposing any changes for current retirees. in fact, he is, on medicare. on social security, he's not. >> this is an example of probably the governor's weakest moment in the debate. you want to think of a maybe smoother transition than to just say, oops, i forgot, here's what i should have said. >> reporter: and one of the things people may not realize about the format of this town hall is something that you, sole dad, pointed out a few moments ago, which is that there is what some people are calling the fake audience, the people down there who are asking the questions. and then there are the people who are coming to actually watch, the real audience, who are sitting up here with us. and when it comes to preparing the candidates, what these coaches are saying is that they have to really make sure they're focused on the people down there
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who are going to ask the questions, because if they don't, if they kind of look up into the rafters, they will look uncomfortable, they will look awkward and there will be a disconnect. and that actually happened without gore back in 2000. >> right. we've seen it in the past. so beside teaching how to sit on a stool so you don't look awkward, how do they teach them to deal with someone here, but really get a message out to here and then the folks watching on television? >> what i was told by people involved in romney's prep in particular, they really drove home with him to be aware of how he relates to the voter asking the question. maybe not to get too close so that in the words of one source he's up in their grill or too far away that it would look awkward, which is the opposite of what he wants. so those are the things he really has to be aware of. and also the president will be walking around, maybe not sitting still. it's really just understanding his surround attention, that it's not just him and the president. >> trying to answer the question and talk to the audience, american audience.
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dana, thank you. let's send it back to wolf. >> a lot easier said than done, to be sure, guys. thank you. michelle obama is talking about the president's ego in our exclusive interview, and we'll also hear from our own candy crowley backstage right now at the debate. first, this debate flashback. ♪ we have a question right here. >> yes. how has the national debt -- >> when george bush got caught looking at his watch, it looked like he was bored, that he didn't care about the debate. and that underscored the feeling that he wasn't connected to the oblems othe le uny. an heate s looking at his watch, he was thinking, i hate these debates. i'm so glad it's almost over. it became an emblem of the fact that he wasn't engaged fully enough in what was happening to the people of the country. even if that was not true.
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welcome back to our coverage of "debate night in america." the second debate with three weeks until the election. this campaign is not getting any easier for the candidates or their wives. we have portions off our exclusive interviews with michelle obama and ann romney you haven't seen before. gloria borger asks mrs. romney how tough it is on the campaign trail. >> i think the hardest part for me is being away from my husband a lot. for me it's being on the road all of the time. there is a good and bad side of
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running a campaign, but for me it's difficult never to be home. it's difficult to be separated from my husband a lot. it's difficult for me not to be there for my grandchildren's birthdays. but it's all worth it. it's all -- an extraordinary experience on top of that and definitely something i believe in with all my heart. i believe every single day i'm making a difference. that i'm making people see mitt in a different light and see him as a person that cares, and a person that's competent. >> reporter: it's been a long campaign, as you pointed out earlier. you've been through the primaries, and there have been mistakes along the way. how tough is your husband on himself? is. >> no one is ever going to run a perfect campaign and no one is ever going to be perfect. but you're going to get up the next morning and you're going to just keep fighting and that's where we are right now. we're just going to fight and we're just going to go forward. >> gloria borger joins us now. it's interesting to see her evolution on the campaign trail. early on in the primary season,
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she wasn't really out in front and then she started to introduce him and now campaigning on her own. >> it's really amazing when you go back to 2008, because she made a video for him, a home video that said "you cannot do this again. "after he lost. i will not be a part of it. then she decided she did want to be a part of it. and she was reluctant at first, and now i would say she is one of his chief surrogates. clearly, as we were talking about before, women voters, very important. she has been an important part of the campaign. i also think she weighs in on tactics once in a while. and i think she is very involved with just about everything in this campaign. and she has been an important part of it. >> she not only changed her mind about whether she would run, she told me she talked him into it, and he independently verified that. so she -- i think it's -- it's hard to describe just how important she is to him. >> right. we're going to have more on that interview, you can see more
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throughout this evening tonight. let's go now to our exclusive interview with michelle obama. wolf, you've got that. >> that's right, anderson, her husband looking for a debate comeback tonight. our chief white house correspondent, jessica yellin, asked the first lady about the times when the president needs a reality check. >> reporter: some aides say you're the one person who can keep his ego in check. is that true? >> you know, barack doesn't have a big ego. you know, that's the thing. i mean, he is -- you know, you see this in how he leads the country. i mean, he is very open to other people's opinions. and he's always willing to compromise and he is always, always listening. so that would kind of be the last thing that i would think of when i talk about my husband as big ego. because he just doesn't have that. so it's not much to check. >> reporter: she got back up from her brother craig, who coaches basketball at oregon state. >> one of the first things i saw
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on the basketball court was his lack of ego. you know, he -- the game wasn't about him, it was about the game, and it was about his teammates. and so i don't think there's an ego to put in check. >> reporter: hard to believe about a president of the united states. >> not this one. >> reporter: okay. jessica is joining us now. jessica, a hard thing to believe. what do you make of that? >> reporter: well w the campaign in the final stretch, everyone on their team is trying to stay on message, and that extends to the first lady and obviously to her brother. so she was a supportive spouse from beginning to end. the president was interviewed recently by diane sawyer after his first debate, and he said that mrs. obama, his wife, is his most honest critic. but in that same interview, she also told me that she never offers him criticism. she only offers positive, constructive feedback. so she was very much on message.
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she did not want to say anything that would in any way trip him up, wolf. >> not surprised by that. jessica, good work. by the way, we'll have the interview, jessica's interview in our next hour. you're going to want to stick around and see that. anderson, both of these candidates are blessed with wonderful wives, huge assets in their campaigns, especially when it comes to attracting that critically important women's vote. >> they certainly are. and also evidenced that the spin isn't just in the spin room, also on the campaign trail. does anybody believe that somebody can become president of the united states without having a very healthy or strong ego. >> i think that's another thing that's perfect about barack obama is that he has no ego. so, no -- of course he's -- everybody is trying not to make a mistake near the end of the debate and start any controversy or story that would travel about the president, or mitt romney being an egotist. it's interesting the best way to see them is through the eyes of the women they married. that really is kind of the
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window into who both of these men are. >> it is interesting, as you said, they are kind of just inherently -- they're not huggers. and yet that is now the position that they are in, in order to win over those who have yet to decide. they have really got to go out there. and that's not outside of obama's skill set. i mean, he is a -- he's somewhat removed. >> he is very good at hugging. very skillful. >> but, you know, it is a strange thing where now in this situation where, you know, i'm sure mitt romney is getting coaching on hugging and whatever. but here's what's true about obama. when he drops into the moment and he's there with somebody, he doesn't have to go into his -- he has gone through the life of a lot of people who are ordinary, working class, middle class folks. he himself had student loans, they're right there on the college campus with kids about to graduate off a cliff with massive student loans. he doesn't have to work that hard at it.
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>> it's interesting, i remember reading the book and i don't want to misquote the passage, but he describes the ease with which he found he could mobilize a crowd and almost resisted at times. he almost kind of becomes uncomfortable with his ability to -- i don't want to say manipulate, but to get a crowd on its feet. i think there is a part of his brain which that's not really who he is. >> but i think that inner conflict is a part of his charisma. you don't get the impression he's a manipulator. you get the impression he believes what he says and has come through a life that has put him in contact with people of all colors, all classes and has a point of view. and i think that what he's got to be able to do tonight, he's got to remind people why he set the world on fire. and he's got to remind people that he is somebody who has walked in their shoes and wants the future -- to your point, you said this over and over again. the future that barack obama wants for this country is something he's got to get back on -- >> is there a huge risk in that -- been around presidents -- if he reminds people what he was four years
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ago, can't romney say, what about creating jobs, what about changing washington? >> i think -- >> may very well. >> here's the big issue about performing on a stage like this on a night like tonight. it's real. that's what i like about the presidential level, different from the senate level, ads create your image. it comes down to who you are and you have to wear it well. and if the president is that aloof, hard-to-connect-with president and he can't come across, it will show. same thing with mitt romney. the camera does catch it and people watch it on the presidential level. >> no question about it. and we've all seen barack obama move and stir huge crowds and move people to tears over and over again. what tonight is about, not speaking, it's listening. and i think the people that misunderstand sometimes about barack obama, he can listen. he refuses to fake authenticity, right? and so i think when he gets into a situation, he can listen, and when he does, and when he connects, people will know it's genuine. that will be very powerful. >> do not forget, though, debate
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tonight is not about hugging. there is a reason barack obama chose the strategy he did, initially, which is to disqualify mitt romney. he said i've done the best i can, let's wait for the economy to get better. tonight people are not looking just for the warm sky. they want a hammer that can drive a nail. they want somebody who can fix this economy. >> they want somebody who understands their life. and that takes listening and saying i get it. and that's what voters will be looking for. do you get it. do i have a plan to fix it. >> and it's not only the public and the audience he has to listen to. he has to listen to his opponent, which he didn't do the first debate. he looked away, scoffed at him, couldn't look him in the eye. he's got to be able to take mitt romney's points and rebut them with substance and specifics. >> but -- >> what kind of rebuttals are we seeing? we saw joe biden's version, point by point, moment by moment, that's not president obama. >> i don't think he needs to be -- try to be the old obama.
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people look for him to be a more mature obama. i want to go back to what dee dee has been saying all evening. what he has not done, not described the past, has not described the future in a compelling way. what he needs is a story tonight. here's where we started, here's where we are and here's where we're going. and he's got to keep doing that. >> opened the door for governor romney. governor romney is not even -- neither one of these guys is bill clinton and governor romney is probably not as much about making connection as barack obama but said you like him, how is your economy, i can fix it, get you to a better place. i might not be your best friend -- >> obama can't be something he isn't. people elected no drama obama. suddenly this evening, you're not going to see president obama come out and start slugging away. that's not who he is. >> one of the things romney did effectively, took the question and answered quickly and pivoted to whatever he wanted to talk about. much better prepared. obama kept answering the question point by point by point. he can't do that again. >> you watched the debate
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tonight, let's get instant reaction at cnn.com/debatesliveblog. that rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? and give us your take, as well. also, candy crowley tells us what it's like to be the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate. and hillary clinton shares her advice for the president. right now, a debate flashback. ♪ the focus groups right after al gore and bush debated seemed to give a slight edge to gore, because he was more articulate. he had better answers. but once the television cameras caught that sighing, it seemed to underscore him as somebody as a teacher's pet, knew the answers, but was annoying and irritating. and they played it over and over again. and it became parodies on the comedy shows and late-night tv and became devastating for him
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we're getting closer and closer to tonight's presidential debate rematch. you're looking at a live picture from inside the room there. people are gathering and also nearby in the so-called spin room. that's where our white house correspondent brianna keilar and jim acosta are standing by. brianna, set the scene. i see more folks arriving. >> reporter: there are more folks, wolf. this is where the action will be after the debate, but you're already seeing some now. in fact, over here, if you can see over my right shoulder, former new york governor george
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pataki surrounded by a whole scrum of reporters, as he's putting his spin in favor of mitt romney tonight. and look around the room. this half of this large room at hofstra university dedicated to television outlets and networks. you can see they have their various booths so the democrat and republican surrogates can come and do interviews afterwards. and across the room, the other half dead indicated to radio reporters, print reporters, bloggers, hundreds of them, including from the foreign press here tonight. this is the spin room, already slowly swirling, wolf. >> is your head getting dizzy yet, or is it okay? >> reporter: it will. >> i know, get ready. jim acosta in the spin room, as well, a different location. where are you, jim? >> that's right, wolf. i'm also in the spin room, same room brianna is in, but different vantage point. wanted to show this wide view of what's going on in here right now. and wolf, i have to tell you, if this debate were a washing
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machine, it would have two spin cycles, one before the debate, one after the debate. and what's been notable so far, wolf, we've seen more democratic surrogates coming into this spin room than republican surrogates before the debate. we got caught up with john kerry, the massachusetts senator, who is involved in these debates eight years ago. about an hour ago, a huge gaggle of reporters gathered around him, and he was tearing into mitt romney's record in massachusetts, calling it a charade. when mitt romney talks about bipartisanship during his days as governor of massachusetts, wolf, he also got into the subject of libya, and hillary clinton's comments yesterday, that she takes responsibility for what happened in benghazi. i asked john kerry, i said, "doesn't the buck stop with the president?" he said the president is also taking responsibility for what happened in libya. we have not heard that from the president yet. perhaps we will hear that later this evening. but wolf, the number of democrats i think is a sign that the president is going to be more aggressive later on this evening. we also had a chance to hear
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from ohio senator rob portman. he was talking about the stylistic differences we might see between president obama two weeks ago and what we might see tonight. he said president obama's problem is not style, it's substance, wolf. >> he's got to be more aggressive tonight than the first time, otherwise he's going to be in deep trouble. jim, thank you. cnn's chief political correspondent, candy crowley, is the first woman in 20 years to be chosen to moderate a presidential debate. but she says it took a while for that to sink in. she spoke to us about her role in had political history. >> i was in my office, and i got a phone call from the executive director of the presidential debate commission who said, "we were wondering if you would be willing to moderate a debate." and i said, "let me just think -- yes." they told me not to tell anyone. so that was in some ways the hardest part. i cheated, i told my children. but beyond that, i didn't tell
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anybody. and so it was -- it was just this weird sort of cheshire cat thing going on, because i knew something that other people didn't know. but i mean, inside i was thinking, whoa. this is amazing. for a journalist, does it get better than that? not much better that i can think. people say, oh, do you think you're going to ask a different question because you're female? and i think, i'm going to ask different questions because of all the things that i am. bob schieffer and i are different, jim lehrer and i are different, different backgrou s backgrounds, different experiences and certainly one of the differences between me, i'm female and they're male. that's a part of it. i guess i didn't embrace the history of it as -- until women started -- and by the way, men, as well. my -- i have just sons. and they were thrilled and said,
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"mom, did you know, you're the first woman in 20 years?" so they were excited by it. what is different about this debate is that it's also -- it's a town hall meeting. so there will be folks there that have been selected as not having made up their minds. so they bring to the table their worries. and so i think there are a lot of elements here that make room for surprises and if you look back over the history of debates, there's usually always one. i am hoping that the 25 years that i've covered politics has prepared me and given me the base for this. monday morning quarterbacking is no more effective in politics than in football. what worries this campaign is the right to sit things out. can i tell you how awesome this is? it's completely awesome. i mean, i think that i -- i never thought about it ahead of
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time in terms of, oh, well, i might get a debate. i didn't think then, and so to have it happen is just -- i don't know. it's a career highlight, what can i say? >> candy is going to do an amazing, amazing job. and after the debate, we'll be speaking to her, as well. you'll want to stick around for that. town hall style debates, like the one tonight, are a relatively new part of presidential campaigns. and as we heard, style sometimes can be just as important as substance. let's go over to john king at the magic wall. you've been looking at some of the best and worst of these kinds of town hall formats. >> relatively new in terms of debates, but candidates do it all the time. we went through history. this is a question from the last wn hall debate, and you think going in, the candidates have to be nimble. sometimes they're surprised. >> we've come to the last question. and you'll both be interested to know, this comes from the internet and it's from a state that you're strongly contesting, both of you. it's from peggy in amhertz, new hampshire.
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it has a certainzen-like quality, i'll give you fair warning. she says, what don't you know, and how will you learn it?tor o crack at that. >> m wife, michelle is there. and she could give you much longer list than i do. and most of the time i learn it by asking her. >> so the president took a zen-like question, as tom said. sometimes in a town hall you get questions you might not expect, like when you call on a child. >> what's your view on abortion? >> that's a question i did not expect from you, but i'm happy -- i am -- i am pro life. i am pro life, and what i would like to see happen -- you know, this is a tender and sensitive issue. >> interesting to see governor romney there -- this is during the primaries, watch if abortion comes up tonight. there he was talking to a child.
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here's a case where he might have regretted how he handled this one. >> could you help me understand why you oppose the use of birth control? >> i don't. >> okay, well -- >> i'm sorry. life begins at conception. birth control prevents conception. >> veryawkward moment there, including the governor's laugh, to a very sensitive question there. this is a famous >> live beginnings conception and birth control prevents conception. >> the republicans had the bige >> qui frankly i'mi'm exhausted defending your administrati. my husband and i jd years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans. >> you be exactly what is broho's working for veterans, somebody who's a cfo and i am sure knows how to manage their money, that made good decisions. i'm not saying once in a while
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you don't want to get a new pair of shoes. >> an answer there from the president got some laughter, but a lot of critics said he did not make a connection there especially early on. and here's a voter who said it's hard to relate. >> i tell my stor i'm also unemployed. >> are you on linkedin. >> he says i'm employed,or people laugh. what a thing to say when millions of americans are out there struggling for jobs. it tells you a lot about politics. >> leave the jokes to the comedians, you're in dangerous territory when you think you're going to be funny. our latest group of
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undecided voters, the o. >> right now debate flasher. >> i think there was no more brilliant closinging than reagan eat. >> are you better off than you were four years ago? >> it became a theme encapsukac ated in one sentence. what it did was make people realize, yes, that's what happened to me and it can probably be said by lotts of people at various times in history. all energy development comes with some risk,
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live pictures of the debate hall. people will eventually start getting in there, but it's a little bit early. tonight as the debate is under way, our focus group of undecided voters will offer the first verdict on who's doing well and who's perhaps struggling. erin burnett is with our folks in the swing state of ohio. set the scene for us, tell our viewers what the folks that you're with are going to be doing tonight? >> that's right, so far this is our third focus group, third debate here, and the focus groups have been spot on, their instant analysis of who did
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better has been right on. for those of you who are not familiar with what we do. the professors at smu are saying, do you like this question, and then you're going to hear what our voters have to say. let me tell you how we're coming in here tonight. in the last election, 27% of the people in this focus group voted for barack obama and 7% for john mccain. this is very much up for grabs. coming into the debate, half of them said they would vote for the president, and half would vote for romney, but they are uncommitted. what florida was to 2000, will be ohio in 2012. how many of you are satisfied,
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happy with the direction the country is going in? there are a few hands and who doesn't like the way the country is going. and that's what it's lot. we also had a group of undecided voters rate the first obama-romney debate when the president admits he had a bad night. we measured the reaction of undecided colorado voters as the green line represents the men the yellow line is for women. we're showing you the candidates' debate moments that did not play well with undecided voters. first president obama's, his low point came at around 9:18 when he was talking about taxes and seemed to take a dig at governor romney. >> for 18 months he's been
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running on this tax plan, and now five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big bold idea is never mind. and the fact is that, if you are lowering the rates the way you describe, governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. it's math, it's arithmetic. >> that was the president's lowest moment. governor romney's happened at about 9:43 when he talked about cuts to entitlements. >> but on medicare, for current retirees, he's cutting 716 million from the program. but not paying providers, going to them and saying we're going to reduce the rates across the board.
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that's not just going after places where there's abuse, that's cutting off the rates and 15% of hospitals say they won't take anymore medicare patients. >> as for the high points, the focus group favored romney, he said seven high points during the debate while obama had only four. cnn's debate coverage continues right now.
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this is hofstra university
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in hempstead, new york, it's the backdrop for the battleground between the president and governor romney. this is where they will appear for their highly touted rematch. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world to debate night in america. i'm wolf blitzer, this is the president's chance for a do over after he lost the debate two weeks ago. candy crowley is the moderator for tonight's debate. it's a town hall format so we could see a different dynamic between the candidates. the candidates wives are bracing for the next few hours and the last few weeks of a rigorous campaign. stand by for portions of our
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exclusive interviews with both michelle obama and ann romney, portions that you have not seen before. cnn is committed to giving you comprehensive coverage of this debate. >> we're going to clock the president and governor romney to see exactly how much time they discuss particular issues and how much talk time they get overall. also our focus group of undecided voters are going to react in real time on what the candidates are saying, you're going to be able to see how voters are reacting to what each candidate is seeing, and we'll see the lines go up and down. >> we're at the david mack sports arena at hofstra university. they just brought in the 82 uncommitted voters, those are
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people who say they have no preference for a presidential candidate at this point, or they have a preference, but they're not committed. they could vote for the other guy. they're hoping they have a chance to have their questions answered. we haven't been able to talk to any of them. they have been sort of sequestered backstage keeping them away from any reporters and any questions. and there's 300 hofstra students receiveded tickets. michelle obama, new york governor andrew cuomo, and seth balkner. we are told they're keeping this room between 62 and 64 degrees. that is what they have negotiated between the two campaigns tonight. >> i love this that all this stuff is up for negotiation. negotiating the ambient temperature of the debate pal. tonight's debate comes exactly three weeks before the election.
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john king is tracking the state of the the race. >> we have not changed our baseline calculations. 237 electoral votes to romney's 191. the first race, dramatic changes, all nine of these toss up states, governor romney has made progress. can he continue that momentum tonight? or will obama stop it. it's certainly a question whether there billion dollwill n about the -- hillary clinton's state department. now the secretary of state is responding. she also has some advice for president obama tonight. secretary clinton spoke to cnn's foreign affairs reporter in
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peru. >> you say you don't want to play the blame game, but certainly there's a blame game going on in washington. during the presidential debate, vice president biden said we didn't know, white house officials calling around saying, hey, this is a state department function. are they throwing you under the bus? >> oh, of course not. i am in charge of the state department, the president and the vice president certainly wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. they are the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision. >> the intelligence department called it a protest. as you know, republicans are charging that this was a cover-up. was it a rush to judgment or was it bad intelligence as vice president biden suggests?
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>> you know, elise, i take a very different view of this. i have now for 20 years, been very much in the administration decision making first with my husband then after 9/11, working with president bush, now of course in president obama's cabinet. in the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there's always going to be confusion and i think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence, everyone who spoke -- >> bad intelligence? >> everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. as time as gone on, the information has changed, we have gotten more detail. but that's not surprising. that always happens and what i want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game going on. because that does a disservice to the thousands and thousands
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of americans not just in the state department but also in the military who serve around the world. everyone wants to make sure they are as safe as possible. but they are doing the job they were sent out to do. >> ambassador stevens father this week said his death is being politicized, he called it a witch hunt. >> i know that we're very close to an election, i want us to take a step back here and stay from my own experience, we are at our best as americans when we pull together. >> are you saying we're not doing that? >> i have seen democratic presidents and republican presidents, first and foremost, we have lost americans. dozens more had to fight for their lives over a very long battle. they had to be evacuated because of the dangers they were facing.
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>> some people think it's to stop hillary clinton from making any gains for 2016. >> that's so far from anything anybody should be speaking about. the only threats i'm worrieded about are the threats to my men and women on the ground, every day, as we speak, it's what i'm obsessed with, and what we have worked so hard to evaluate and of course we're a team, we're a team with the dod, we're a team with the intelligence community and other assets of the government. >> are you going to watch the debate? >> i am. i'm going to try to get home in time to make sure i see every bit of it. >> you have watched president obama and you've watched many debates. what do you think he needs to do. >> get out there and tell people, not just those in the audience, in our country what he has done and what he will do. i think this is a consequential election for both domestic and international regions.
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although i am in and out of politics, i am still an american and i care deeply about what happens in our country. >> let's bring gloria borger, david gergen and john king. do you think this is going to come up tonight? >> it will be interesting if one of the people from the audience raise it. i think what hillary clinton did very effectively, i think she took it off the table to a certain degree, better than the administration has done for itself. this happened on my watch. >> what are you looking for? >> after just hearing that, we have been talking about how aggressive obama should be. i think the real question is can
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they meet the hillary clinton bar. can they meet her standard, because she sets a high one. she's gracious, she's dig guyed, she says what she wants to say and that was a very compelling interview. i don't think she has taken it off the table. president obama, the buck stops here in the white house. that's what barack obama has said. >> that is a former rival turned very loyal soldier in trying to step forward, she knows her credibility, not just with democrats but the american people. and she's trying to say this is on me. what you'll hear from governor romney, that he l say this is one of many examples where the president tries to wash his hands and blame it on something else. the white house publicly blamed the state house. people in both those communities didn't like that. but she is a loyal soldier here. but the question is, can
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governor romney connect that to the president's leadership. >> i think hillary clinton score points personally. stand by for an exclusive on ann romney. [ male announcer ] now you can swipe... scroll... tap... pinch... and zoom... in your car. introducing the all-new cadillac xts with cue. ♪ don't worry. we haven't forgotten, you still like things to push. [ engine revs ] the all-new cadillac xts has arrived, and it's bringing the future forward.
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take a look at this video taken just moments ago, mitt romney's motorcade arriving at the debate site at hofstra university for the big debate tonight. we just got also this photo as well, showing romney is holding hands on the way to the debate. i this is identical of what we
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had at the first debate. we're going to hear from michelle obama a bit later. first ann romney opening up about her role. >> i think the hardest part for me is being away from my husband a lot. for me, it's being on the road all the time. there's a good and a bad side of running a campaign. but for me, it's difficult never to be home. it's difficult for me to be separated from my husband a lot. it's difficult not to be there are for my children's birthdays. it's definitely something i believe in, with all my heart. i believe every single day that i'm making a difference, that i'm making people see mitt in a different light and see him as a person that cares and a person that's competent. >> it's been a long campaign, as you pointed out earlier, you have been through the primaries
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and there have been mistakes along the way. how tough is your husband on himself? >> no one's ever going to run a perfect campaign and no one's ever going to be perfect. but you're going to get up the next morning and you're going to keep fighting. and that's where we are right now, we're just going to fight and we're going to go forward. that's where mitt's attitude is to keep pushing forward, to keep thinking about the future, to keep thinking about how important this election is. you just have to let those things just sort of diminish in your mind a little bit and just go out the next day and just keep pushing. >> so you were saying you miss being with your husband, do you talk every night now? what do you talk about? do you talk about the campaign. >> we hardly talk about the campaign which is interesting. we might briefly. but we don't talk about the campaign. have you seen the boys today? or i was with john today or i
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was with craig today. >> our life is our family. we're concerned for one another. he's worried about am i getting enough rest. i'm worried about is he getting enough rest. >> but in debates like tonight, ann romney told us they find comfort in his debate ritual. >> he finds me in his audience. he finds me in the audience he takes off his watch and puts it on the podium and then he writes dad on a piece of paper. he loves his dad, and he does not want to do anything that would not make him proud.
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>> romney himself told wolf blitzer, it also serves a very real purpose. >> she's right, i write my dad's name at the top of the piece of paper to remind myself of all that he sacrificed to give me the opportunities i now have. i think about his passion, his passion for the country, dad was devoted to ideals that motivated him. the guy was born in mexico with nothing when he came to this country, rose to be head of a car company, a governor. my dad was the real deal and his life and his memory inspires me. and of course i look at ann every chance i get, she's usually looking down, she's a little nervous during the debate, but i look to her to see if she feels like i've done a good job. >> he'll finds me in the audience, to see if was that good? am i doing okay? >> and what do you do?
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>> i go, good. >> he's on stage, there's an emotional connection that's happening between the two of us during the debate itself. >> it is interesting to see what her role now is in the campaign. >> what's interesting about ann romney is she talks about her husband's character, as you would expect a political spouse to do, but she also tuck talks issues and she can carry that sort of dagger wrapped in velvet sometimes if she has to about president obama and about the administration, what's that administration's record. >> just for tonight, women
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voters, how important are they. >> i've all other things being equal, suburban women decide close races in politics. >> we have even in this election, president obama sometimes in the national polls had an 18 point lead among women. that lead has gone down and shrunk and opened up again. we're not sure whether women today are going to be moved by economic issues or the social issuings. >> we're going to talk to michelle obama. stand by for that exclusive interview and the start of the presidential debate coming up.
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not quite knowing what the next phase was going to be, you know, because you been, you know, this is what you had been doing. you know, working, working, working, working, working, working. and now you're talking about, well you know, i won't be, and i get the chance to spend more time with my wife and my kids. it's my world. that's my world. ♪
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all right the president's motorcade had just arrived at hofstra university out on long island. it's debate night in america, and we're waiting for the second face-off between the candidates. we're waiting for tonight's debate between former governor mitt romney and president obama face off tonight in their second debate. candy crowley, i assume you know is the moderator, the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in 20 years. it's a town hall format, with the candidates answering questions from uncommitted voters. the candidates are expected to get up to 15 questions on both domestic and foreign policy.
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based on a coin toss, president obama will be introduced first. governor romney will get the first question. let's go to the debate hall right now, soledad o'brien is watching what's going on. soledad, i assume it's filling up nicely? >> it is, wolf and those 82 uncommitted registered voters, we're about 35 minutes until this all gets underway. they are the ones that will ask the questions. and the rest of us are held by the same rules, there will be no applause, no clapping and blackberrys off as well. and ann romney says she intends to give her husband positive feedback from the audience. >> we interviewed michelle obama and her brother craig before the first presidential debate. >> you have watched him debate
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many times, what do you think are his debate strengths? >> >> you know, i have to say honestly because i am not a debate watcher, and when you're there, i'm just really, you know, i'm just so focused on it being over. that i don't have much time to analyze and, you know, and i don't look at the tapes afterward. so i really would probably be the worst person to assess his style or his techniques because it's just hard to pays attention to all that. there's so much that goes on at the debates, you know. there's the rules and you don't want to clap and -- i'm just trying to make sure i'm following the rules so it's hard to really focus. >> reporter: after the president's face-off with mitt romney in denver, he was asked by abc news about the first lady's feedback. >> what did mrs. obama say to you when you got home that night? >> you know what? michelle is always my best
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advisor, my toughest critic. she and i have been through this together. >> but when we met, the first lady did not play critic. >> some aides say you're the one person who can keep his ego in check. is that true? >> you know, barack doesn't have a big ego. that's the thing. i mean he is -- you see this in, you know, how he leads the country. i mean he is very open to other people's opinions and he's always willing to compromise and he's always, always listening. so that would kind of be the last thing that i would think of when i talk about my husband is big ego. because he just doesn't have that. so it's not much to check. >> she got backup from her brother craig who coaches basketball at oregon state. >> one of the first things i saw on the basketball court was his lack of ego. you know, the game wasn't about him, it was about the game and it was about his teammates.
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so i don't think there's an ego to put in check. >> reporter: hard to believe about a president of the united states. >> not this one. >> reporter: the first lady is a fierce defender of her husband's administration on the campaign trail, target audience, women. >> reporter: you talk a lot about what your husband has donor women. at the same time, the number of women in poverty has grown during his time in office. it's now at a 17-year high. what is your message to those women? >> this election couldn't be more important for women on so many different issues, i mean making sure women have equal pay is key to eliminating that gap in the economy. because so many women, they're the heads of their households, many are the sole heads of their households so they need to have work that pays. health care is so critical to women. now because of health care reform, women have access to preventative care, things like
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breast cancer screenings and contraception and of course, when it comes to making decisions about our health and our bodies, you know, i for one, as a woman and as a mother with two girls, i want to make sure that my daughters make those decisions for themselves. i could go on and on and on. so many issues will impacted the quality of our lives as women for decades to come and, again, it's not just about me, but i'm thinking about malia and sasha, i'm thinking about our girls and our daughters and our granddaughters. >> let's talk about parenting a little bit. because malia is a freshman in high school, and i think driving is just around the corner. >> oh, gosh. >> have you given any thought as to who's going to get in the car with her? >> this is like the third week of high school, let me get through this first. but what i will say is that barack and i, we have worked to make sure that our girls have a
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normal life, you know, even though they're the children of the president. so it's important for us to make sure that they have friends and sleepovers they go to school, they do everything that kids do. so that has been our priority from day one and we always check in, i always check in with craig, do the girls seem like the girls that you knew before we went to the white house. >> and i'll come out and help teach them to drive. >> the president had called you the best mom in the world. >> he's so sweet. >> and he says the girls are grounded and great. but no kid is perfect. so when the time calls for it, which one of you plays the heavy? >> this is the thing i like about barack, he's not like the happy dad, you know, he is very good at re-enforcing the rules and boundaries that we set. we never get into that, but dad said, we're very good at not letting the kids play off of us
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and barack and i really do share the same values. it makes it easy, i think this is one of the reasons why our wedding was so much fun was because when our families got together, even though they were from all over the world. you had people from kenya and people from hawaii and people from kansas and people from -- you know, it was a melting pot. what connected us was we all shareded the same values. so when it comes to raising kids, it helps to have a partner who believes in the same thing, respect, decency, we are telling our kids is the most important thing they can be is good decent people who treat other people with kindness and respect. that's the overall governmeing principle in our household and
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we don't stray too far from it. and i don't have to worry about barack not being a disciplinary, or me -- we balance each other out. >> when you're in the white house, and one of the kids get in trouble, grounding is you're in the white house all weekend, girls? >> they don't get in trouble. they're really good. they're really good. they don't get in much trouble at all. >> no, they really don't. and to the extent it's -- they already have limited tv time, so trust me, if you only get two hours on saturday and lose those two hours, you don't -- you're going to watch it. >> i interviewed your husband a few weeks ago and he said something interesting which is that he doesn't do a whole lot of out reach sometimes to members of congress and folks in washington because he wants to be home to have dinner with the family regularly. >> we may turn down the invitation to this or that or
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the other just because we're trying to carve out family time and i think that's sometimes interpreted as me not wanting to be out there slapping backs and wheeling and dealing, it really has more to do with the stage we are in our lives. >> do you think there's a down side to putting family first? >> absolutely not. i mean that's -- gosh, that's at the core of this country. in the end, this is what we're here for. we're here to make sure that we're giving every family an opportunity to have the kind of stability and you know, opportunities for the future for themselves and for their kids. and i think the best thing we can do is to model that in our own homes. this is one of the reasons i think barack and i are so passionate about the work that we do because it is about giving families every tool they need to be strong and stable. and that means folks need jobs, they need good, well paying
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jobs. women need to have -- be paid fairly in the workplace and folks need, you know, the resources to be able to have a decent meal so that they can sit around the table and eat with their kids and have vegetables and to talk about health. so i think there's no better thing to do than to model that in our own homes. i know that that's how we grew up. >> yeah, we grew up that way. and you know, what's amazing for me is to watch when i come to the white house, it's the white house. i mean, it's the white house. but inside, in the living quarters, watching my sister and the president operate with their family, it is -- it's refreshing because the only thing that's different is they're in the white house. >> it seems normal? a normal family? >> well, it didn't seem normal.
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>> it doesn't seem normal because we're from the south side of chicago. everything's the same but it's inside can white house. and it's very down to earth and very living. >> what's your second term agenda? >> to be honest, we're so focused on november 6, the issues i'm working on i will continue do to work on and the first thing is to make sure that we come out with a victory on the 6th and then on the 7th we'll roll up our sleeves and get back to work. >> -- 82 uncommitted voters who are now in that circle. in numbered seats, they're getting ready to start asking those questions when this debate gets under way. michelle obama has long been the secret weapon to her husband the president.
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did you ask her now what's the v strategy to regain some of the voters that -- >> obviously we know that he's going to try to talk about some of governor romney's positions on abortion, on contraception, to try to make the point on the social issues. but another way to go about getting the women's vote and try to win it on this night soledad, is that they think that health care reform is an issuea connect s especially to women voters and he will try to make the case there. and he believes that jobs and his message on the economy is the way to win it. but he has to do it with this careful dansce by focusing on te agenda. >> jessica yellin, thanks very much.
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>> soledad, thanks very much. great work from jessica. we're getting a candid look at the candidates, they posted in photo on twitter. let's go to jim acosta. >> reporter: i am with former governor johnson, he's a top sure gas with the romney campaign, he can be lively at times and also a bit testy at times. john skinner said any talk of by pa partisanship --- >> how can you not be by partisan when you have 87% of your legislature, democrats, you
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can't pass legislation unless you're bipartisan. so when you think about that, it tells you how honest ann and governor romney are. >> we heard bill clinton the other day say hey, there's moderate mitt, where you been? >> mitt romney has not changed his positions, whether he is doing is making sure people understand his accomplishments as governor of massachusetts. he worked in a state where it was hard for a republican to get legislation passed. he wants people to know how successful he was. there's nothing wrong with that. >> reporter: in the last presidential debate we heard paul ryan talk about the subject of abortion saying you can't separate the policy from the principle. and a lot are talking about the importance of women voters, do you think we'll hear the
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governor echo those principles. >> he'll talk about the jobs issue and the 17 million americans who are unemployed today after four years of barack obama. >> there we go, it's about to get started here, wolf. a lot of talk on domestic and foreign policy issues, not so much on social issues. perhaps we'll get to that tonight. >> brianna's got a guest. >> reporter: i'm here with robert gibbs, former white house press secretary, now a top advisor for the obama campaign. how do you stop the slide? >> one thing i don't think he's in a slide. but what you're going to see tonight from the president is a vigorous forceal presentation of his case. and more importantly, he's going
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to talk about what he needs to do on the economy for the next four years. >> reporter: as he gone over the tape from denver? >> he's looked at that a little bit. again, i think this is a completely different format and i think what's important is, again, you're getting the questions and the experiences of these uncommitted voters. >> reporter: might he be out of practice a little bit, because as you have mentioned, he hasn't had a lot of experience recently doing this. >> i think he's well suited in the sense that, i mean i think if you look at what people believe about the president, they believe he's somebody that cares about their lives and their concerns, much more so than somebody like mitt romney. i think when these voters get up and ask very personal questions
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about where they are in their lives and their struggles that they have, i think somebody like president obama will be better suited to deal with them than somebody like mitt romney who i think quite frankly looks to a bunch of middle class voters appears out of touch. >> if he didn't have a sense of that split screen, he doesn't understand that he was on camera all that time and what he was giving off in those moments. is he ready for that, for the camera to be on him all the time so gauge his reactions even in those moments? >> i think that part was probably instructive for him to see a couple of seconds of after the denver debate. but i think more than anything, this is about -- tonight it's about interacting with those voters. it's about speaking directly to those undecided voters and talking to them about what we can do to strengthen our manufacturing economy, bring jobs back from overseas, invest in energy and education and give people a real sense of
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opportunity. >> peter, you're over at the debate hall, what are you learning? >> i just talked to dick derbin and i asked him point blank, is barack obama a good debater. he paused a for a minute and said, his strengths are in other areas, that's a quote. and he said obama's probably better giving the big speech is. he's sort of a better thinker and writer than he is a debater. this might be another exercise in lowering expectations for democrats. in 2008, as you know, he had a lead on mccain, versus kind of holding on to it. he had good debates with hillary back in 2004. he didn't have a chance to
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debate in the race against alan keyes. but this is the night that will be a real test, this is dick durbin's words. >> you heard dick durbin saying he has other skills, debating might not be his best. >> i want to talk to our contributors, just a cheat sheet to our voters about what they will be looking for and you will be looking for. >> we have these group of listeners, watchers who are from ohio. i think he's got find a way to make sure that he has an understanding of manufacturing jobs. this is going to be a hit on his green energy policy. there's 125,000 people in ohio right now who have jobs in the clean energy sector. mitt romney wants to knock those jobs out.
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i think he's got an opportunity to reach out. ohio shouldn't even be close. he should be focusing on the people who are worried about their economic situation and pointing out the ways that he's been improving their economic situation and continue to improve it. climate change hasn't been talked about at all. just because it's not part of political reality, doesn't mean it's not part of the drought and other things going on. he's killing two birds with one stone by taking on climate change and talking about energy reform. i think he can do that in ohio. >> these debates for me are not about the issues, or who's the better debater. the president's supposed to be mo moses who leads us to the promised land.
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who shows us a bett path to the future. do we look at romney and said obama's done the best he can do but romney can take us to a better place. >> anderson, i have been talking to top officials in the romney campaign today and they tell me they expect president obama to try to paint governor romney as an extremist on women's issues especially abortion. they tell me that romney is ready for this and that the governor will clearly explain includes -- it also -- is against forcing hospitals with religious affiliations from having to provide it. and as you know, anderson, the woman's vote may decide this election. >> i think elections are about the future. job number one for president obama is to talk about the
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future and what kind of america is he going to lead, both in terms of the themes and the vision, as well as his program stuff. his plan to create new jobs has been blocked in congress. his plan to have a new energy policy and move us toward energy independence. he's going to talk about abortion, and i hope he does, because romney has taken ever possible position that's out there. so i hope the president holds him accountable but the most important thing is to talk about the future and connect people to a hopeful vision of where the country is going. >> we're all partisans, we made up our minds, but undecided voters are mostly white suburban women of middle aged and a little bit younger than middle age. so if you're the president, you want to bang through on these women's issues and paint mitt romney as an extremist.
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and you're going to set that tone about the economy, that you have the plan for the future to get the economy growing and working again, which helps all people, all families, everybody. that is undecided, 3% to 9%, are all that's undecided in this country. >> the president has been losing support with women since the first debate. and the president's strategy of treating women as a collection of reproductive parts and not participants in the economy has not been working for him. if he just goes to that narrower strategy, it's not going to help him. >> we're going to have more from our contributor, the first lady is about to be introduced by soledad. >> anderson i could not quite exactly here what you said. because behind us they're giving instructions. they said a couple of things, one a big thank you to the
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people who are here. they estimate 60 million people who will be watching. they want to advise people as in the last debate that people will be tweeting. as mentioned before, we have 82 people who are actually in the town hall and the folks who are watching on television. we're hoping to see the spouses introduc introduced which has been the format in prior debates. they're both wearing pink? >> they're women of substance, they're wearing hot pink, the same exact color. >> pink as we know is the color of women and so we have been talking all night about the fact that there's going to be a big
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out reach by both the president and mitt romney. >> when you get a cut away shot you want to look a little different than the other candidate and the other candidate's wife. as they always tdo, they introduce the spouses and then go right into the debate. it's been interesting to see how quiet it is the minute they actually start the program. >> oh, well, the audience, they're rapt here, they're waiting just as we are, but fascinated with the format to hear there are a lot of rules that everybody has to observe. so they need to pay close attention to what they can and can't do as well. because everyone has to follow it. >> we can rewind five or ten minutes to what they were doing, i believe we have a picture that the romney campaign tweeted out. i think it's very interesting
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because it's very telling about what mitt romney actually says to be mentally prepared, mentally ready and relaxed. >> he has all five sons here with him. two of his sons, josh and ben are going to be actually in the audience and of course he has his wife. before the first debate, i was told by several romney officials that one of the things they do before every big event, particularly debates is right before they separate, they pray. >> i know he had a question for you guys. wolf? >> i think the first ladies are being introduced right now, soledad. let's watch as they introduce the first lady, obviously the first lady michelle obama, and the first lady wannabe ann romney. and then candy crowley will be introduced. i think she's going to have a few words to say when this debate begins.
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a quick question to you, the first lady michelle obama, she seems to be a little bit more nervous than ann romney is in these kinds of formats. maybe you guys could discuss that. >> well, she does say that this makes her incredibly uncomfortable in these kinds of settings because she pays enormous amount of attention that she's being watched and the cameras could be on her at any moment and there's things she should be doing and should not be doing and she feels like a parent watching her child on the balance beam. in the last debate and in others, it seems as though that they strategically put the families and particularly the spouses in eye line so the candidates can see them. >> she said she's not sure if you can see her or not because
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the lights are always in her eyes. she always smiles. and she can't tell if she's actually making eye contact. >> the girls don't watch because actually they're doing home work. and it bores them, it's not for them. and she says she doesn't watch it afterwards, but she takes it seriously, but it's not comfortable for her. >> it must be very nerve-racking for both spouses, initiate watching their husband get thereupon and debate for 90 minutes. >> we're very proud to watch candy crowley. >> as all of you know a and most of our viewers know who have watched candy over the years and you can attest to this, she is clearly one of the coolest, coolest characters out there. she will do a fabulous, fabulous
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job as we await candy crowley being introduced and the start of this debate, anderson, let me go back. >> let's focus on what we expect from these two men now running for office. >> yeah, i think the president has an opportunity here, given the last debate to try and press his case that mitt romney is a political opportunist. >> they're introducing candy so let's tune in for that. >> thank you. how many times you have been told to turn off everything that has an on off button. check it for a fifth time. pretent you're on an airplane. if you want to be a key player.
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>> clearly the mike that they're feeding -- >> having a front row seat in history. whether you're in the cheap seats or you're down here as part of the posse, you have a front row seat in history and i think it will be real fun if you turn off all the equipment you brought with you. and thank you to you guys back there and you all know, i'm with you, it's going to be a greet night, thank you all, you've been well fed, you have brought great questions and it's going to be a good night. so we will help each other and we have a couple of great candidates and really smart guys so they are awaiting your question. thank you all, enjoy tonight and i will see you on the other end of the hour and a half. thanks.
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>> david, john king, what are you going to look for. >> so many times in the campaign this is the moment that they're going resolve this campaign. this is a hugely important debate. and the clear question politically is whether president obama can stop mitt romney's forward momentum, can he blunt that momentum and regain the lead. if he can, he comes out of this, if he wins tonight big, he comes out of this a strong favorite. on the other hand if mitt romney wins, he comes out as the favorite. >> if the president performs well tonight, has a very strong night, does that just slow mitt romney or does that actually alter the ballots? >> the republicans would say if we're even on election day we'll win. and the republicans are very confident of that. they have spent months and millions working on the ground
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operations. the democrats have confidence that if all things are equal on election day, they will win a very close election. so the president at a minimum has to stop the momentum and get some. >> it is very difficult in this format for president obama to really -- often town halls end up being a draw. >> you go in it knowing that you're going to at least get one question that allows you to get to your strategic imperative and for the president, he has to do better than in the first. governor romney goes into this debate trying to be barack obama from four years ago. i will give you a better economy and i will change washington. >> it's hard to throw the first punch in a town hall meeting, but it's easier to respond with an attack and say by the way, that's not what you said during the primaries. or by the way, look at what you said the other day on the
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question of abortion. >> you would think that the administration would lend itself to a tie. but four years ago, barack obama won decisively. >> undecided voters are going to be monitoring this debate. you're going to see their reactions under the screen. it's very fascinating to see how they react. >> they have in the focus group really indicated who did better who did worse. they trust the president. they think he cares more about them, but 60% of them disapprove of the job he's doing and they are a dead even split of who should be president for the next four years. you'll see the lines at the bottom of the screen and we'll see who is going to be voting
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for whom when all is said and done tonight anderson. >> last the biggest mistake both men could make? >> i think becoming unlikable. for the first time mitt romney's favorable numbers are kind of above water now, they were under water, he's reached the 50% mark. if you look at some polls, i think the worst thing would be to do something that says, ouch, that was mean, nasty, negative. >> if he believes that tonight, does he call mitt romney on it? >> he doesn't come out slugging romney, what you have to do in a town hall is talk to the people who are asking questions and effect talk through them to go bask back to your opponent, but you have to take care of them first. >> don't insult the questioner, when i ask them a question, or you ask them a question, they can pivot. but not with

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